13

Why I Lost My Productivity and How I Got It Back

Summer 2015 was the least productive one I have had for many years. Yes, I know, it's already October, so you might be wondering why I’m only telling you about my summer now. Well, hold on, since this post contains a lot of important lessons about if you ever lose your productivity and how to get it back.

More...

But first, you have to understand what happened to me before the summer this year; in the spring, I hit the “virtual wall.”

In other words, I worked so much that I couldn’t look at my computer anymore. In fact, looking at my Mac started a rejection reaction and I just couldn’t do the work I planned to do.

Now, I wouldn’t call this reaction a burnout. Still, the reaction of looking at my computer and feeling this way was a sure sign from my body to stay away from it, at least for a while. And this is exactly what I did.

So What Actually Caused This to Happen?

You may be wondering why this strong reaction occurred in the first place. The answer to this is very simple: I was on execution mode all the time.

Learning and writing about productivity has always been fun, but all of a sudden, the joy had gone thanks to me setting rules that were too rigid for myself.

For instance, I decided that I wanted to set a daily word count of 1,000 written words every day. At the beginning, this was all fun and I was able to hit the target easily. In addition, I got a lot of work done, so things looked very promising.

But quite soon I noticed that in order to reach this daily goal, I had to write anything down just to reach the 1,000-word mark. I was still able to do that, but I wasn’t happy with what I was producing.

Finally, the daily word count, combined with plenty of other daily goals I set to myself, led into a situation where I just had to raise my hands up and say: I’ve had enough!

This happened in April.

The Summer 2015

After hitting the wall, a couple of months passed without me making any progress on my projects.

For instance, I had to postpone a book writing project because of my aversion to my computer. Instead, I had no difficulties finding time for things like mowing the lawn or spreading a new layer of sand into our yard.

So while I wasn’t overly productive on my projects, there was also another factor that gave me much less time for my actual work. Our son’s daycare was on a summer vacation for almost two months, so I had a lot less time for my projects.

Then, I stopped for a moment and gave my current situation some proper thought. While doing the normal work was out of the question and since the time was limited anyways, I decided to focus on educating myself with a course (non-affiliate link) I had bought some time ago.

But besides studying the material and implementing the lessons, I didn’t do anything else. Then again, I found that taking it easier for a couple of months was important, because it helped me to recharge my batteries and it continued the healing process that was going on.

The Change for the Better

Then, at the end of August, an event occurred and it put the healing process into the fast lane.

First, an online buddy of mine contacted me about a joint-project. After having a Skype call with him, I felt really excited about our project and I wanted to take action right away (rest assured, I’ll let you know more about this project when the time is right!).

On September 10th, there was another milestone in the recovery process. I took a look at one of my earlier writing pieces and that very draft was eventually going to be refined as my next book. But after looking at the draft for a while, I knew that this was not going to make it to Amazon – that’s how terrible the writing was!

This draft was done exculsively in the “execution era,” when I had the obsession to reach the 1,000 word mark every day. And although the book was almost ready, I decided to split the book into five different titles.

I realized that I want to work on projects that I’m really excited about. For this reason, I “killed” the draft and started a new project from scratch on a topic that I’m very excited about (how to wake-up earlier).

Finally, something else happened and this was also a very important part of the healing process. I’m not sure why this occurred, but I now understand that this was necessary, in order to get back to a regular productivity groove.

I’m a fan of Mike Vardy and his blog Productivityist. I also follow Craig Jarrow’s Time Management Ninja and I felt very inspired about productivity again when I started reading their blog posts. Something inside me said, “I want to be like these guys. They have super-successful blogs and they are also successful in the very same area I’m operating in.”

So after reading their articles, I got another boost to my creativity. In fact, it opened the floodgates of my writing.

You see, I hadn’t updated my blog for a while, but I finally understood something important - even if I wasn’t able to write articles all the time which were spread on social media like a virus, I still had to continue writing, to improve my writing skills.

So thanks to Mike and Craig, I started updating my blog again. And oh, when I say write, I really mean that: In one day, I finished three blog posts (this one you are reading and two others) and two newsletter items - all in one day (Note: in two weeks, I have written now 17 blog posts and the first draft of the new book is ready).

When the floodgates of writing opened, I finally knew it: I had fully recovered from the crash that occurred in the spring.

So What Healed Me?

Sorry, I can’t give you an exact formula for how you could recover from an emerging burnout or how long it’s going to take to take to heal (for me this “episode” lasted from the 16th of April till the 15th of September).

Still, there are certain tips you can follow:

  • If your body sends you strong message of staying away of your computer, do so. Don’t force productivity; let it come to you naturally. For me, I took a few months off from the regular work.

  • Read inspiring blogs and learn new skills.

  • Forget rigid goals. For me, this meant not messing with the 1,00o words daily count anymore. It-just-doesn’t-work-for-me.

  • You will know when the time is ready. For me, this took me five months. For you, it might take shorter. But what I realized is that you shouldn’t rush your recovery. You’ll just know when it’s time to get back into your groove.

  • Work on the projects that you love.

  • Do physical work, where you can see the results instantly. For instance, in my first book project, raking the leaves on the yard was both a meditative and stress-relieving experience, since I saw the results instantly.

Leave a comment: Have you “lost” your productivity? How did you get it back?

Timo Kiander